MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Dover

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The second round of the MENCS playoffs kickoff this week at the Monster Mile. The series competed at this track in May and usually the results from the first race translate into speed in the fall race. Keep in mind though that there is a lot more at stake Sunday then there was in the first race. Most of the playoff drivers wrecked each other racing for position at Dover last year. The Drydene 400 can be seen Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

 

Track Notes

The cars will have the 750 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and no aero ducts this week. This is the same aero package they raced at Dover in May. The results from the first race usually translates into speed in the fall because this is a rhythm track and a driver either knows how to turn fast laps or they just get in the way of the drivers who have the rhythm down pat.

The cars will be inspected Friday so the qualifying results on Saturday will set the field for the race Sunday. We do not need to worry about NASCAR inspecting the cars after qualifying and sending cars to the back of the field. There is only one race left on the schedule when NASCAR will inspect the cars after qualifying and that is at Martinsville.

 

Stats from Steep Tracks in 2019

Diver Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Brad Keselowski

9.5

208

107.9

2. Kyle Busch

4.5

220

107.5

3. Chase Elliott

4.0

225

107.3

4. Kyle Larson

7.5

146

106.3

5. Martin Truex Jr.

11.5

184

104.7

6. Clint Bowyer

7.3

25

98.7

 7. Joey logano

10.0

162

97.6

8. Ryan Blaney

10.5

158

97.0

9. Kurt Busch

7.8

103

96.5

10. Erik Jones

13.3

112

92.8

11. Kevin Harvick

15.0

29

89.8

12. Daniel Suarez

9.5

21

85.1

13. Matt DiBenedetto

10.5

93

85.1

14. Denny Hamlin

9.5

86

84.4

15. Jimmie Johnson

14.8

7

83.1

16. Alex Bowman

14.5

16

82.6

17. William Byron

16.5

5

75.7

18. Ryan Newman

15.3

0

74.6

19. Paul Menard

17.3

0

69.8

20. Chris Buescher

18.5

0

67.8

21. Ty Dillon

19.3

6

65.7

22. Austin Dillon

19.3

0

60.6

23. Daniel Hemric

21.0

0

55.4

24. Aric Almirola

21.3

0

55.2

25. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

24.8

0

54.4

* Steep Tracks include Bristol, Darlington and Dover

 

Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: Elliott will have a good chance to visit Victory Lane for the second straight week. To say Dover is his best track is an understatement. He has competed in 7 MENCS races at the Monster Mile and only finished outside the top 5 once. His average finishing position at the track is 4.43. He won this race last year, he has momentum from his win last week and he finished 5th in May.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has 11 wins at Dover. His last trip to Victory Lane at the Monster Mile was in 2017. What is even more impressive is that Johnson has a 9.9 average finishing position in his 35 races at the track. He qualified 14th and finished 12th in the May race at the track. Johnson still wants to win a race this season and he will have a good opportunity to do that Sunday.

Alex Bowman: Bowman has a couple of things going for him this week. He drove his butt off last week to a 2nd place finish at Charlotte so he has some momentum and he finished 2nd in the last race at Dover. I heard that the No. 88 team was bringing the same car Bowman drove in May to the track this week. Bowman currently sits 9th in the playoff standings and only the top 8 advance to the next round. He needs as many points as possible this week to gain ground in the standings.

William Byron: The key to success for the No. 24 team has been track position. Chad Knaus has set up the car to qualify up front so Byron would have a track position and pit stall advantage over the competition. He qualified 2nd for the May race at Dover and he should start up front Sunday. His track position in that race led to an 8th-place finish. I expect the No. 24 team to use the same strategy this week.

Kyle Larson: Larson told SiriusXM radio this week, “We are laying down all of our chips at Dover. This is one of my best tracks so we are going to do everything possible to win the race so we do not have to worry about Talladega or Kansas.” Larson has some momentum heading into the race Sunday after his 8.5 average finishing position in the first round of the playoffs. He qualified 3rd, scored 10 Stage points and finished 3rd in the May race at Dover. He is definitely one of the drivers to beat this week.

Kurt Busch: Busch was one of the more consistent drivers in the MENCS and then the calendar switched to September. Busch finished 30th, 39th, 18th and 20th in the 4 September races. Hopefully the next month will bring new life to the team. Kurt told SiriusXM Clair B. Lang after the race last week, “I will race hard these final 7 races and see how it goes. Chip told me I can have my seat in 2020 if I want it, but if we cannot compete, there is no reason to return. These final races will probably decide if I am back next year.” I hope he runs well.

Kevin Harvick: Harvick has momentum and track history on his side this week. Harvick has finished 9 of the last 10 races in the top 7. The only race he failed to finish in the top 7 was at Bristol when he was running 4th and his clutch went out. Harvick also leads the series with a 121.5 Driver Rating and a series-high 453 in the last 5 races at Dover. He qualified 6th, scored 12 Stage points and finished 4th in the May race at Dover. The No. 4 team has been better on the larger tracks this season but you can never bet against Harvick at Dover.

Clint Bowyer: Bowyer was one of the last drivers to make it into the playoffs and he clawed his way up the standings to advance to the second round. He is going to have to do it again in the next 3 races. Bowyer sits 12th in the standings and only 8 drivers advance to round 3. He has been good at Dover since he joined Stewart-Haas Racing. Bowyer is one of the only drivers to score Stage points in every Stage at Dover since NASCAR implemented the scoring system. He qualified 10th and finished 9th at Dover in May. He needs to do better than that Sunday if he wants to climb up in the point standings.

Daniel Suarez: Suarez could be a good sleeper pick this week. He has competed in 5 races in the MENCS at Dover and his average finishing position is 7.6. Suarez qualified 14th, led 21 laps and finished 11th in the May race at the Monster Mile. He ran well at Bristol and Darlington (2 steep tracks) in August so he should be fast again Sunday.

Aric Almirola: People have been talking about Cole Custer replacing Daniel Suarez in the No. 41 car. They should be talking about the young driver going to the No. 10 car. Almirola got off to a hot start to the season and has not done much for a long time. Almriola has not finished in the top 10 on an oval track since the first Pocono race in June. Almirola finished 7th in the first race at Dover but that was when he was running well. He ranks 24th this season on the steep tracks so he could be a risky pick this weekend.

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski will have some momentum after his solid run in the first round of the playoffs. Keselowski finished 3rd at Las Vegas, 4th at Richmond and 5th at the Roval. Dover ranks as his 17th best track though. Keselowski only has one finish in his last 5 trips to the Monster Mile. The good news is that he is one of only 3 drivers to score Stage points in every Stage at Dover (Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer are the other two).

Joey Logano: Logano did just enough in round 1 of the playoffs to advance without losing his place in the standings. Logano finished 9th at Las Vegas, 11th at Richmond and 10th at the Roval. He currently sits 4th in the playoff standings but it would help if he could finish in the top 5 if he wants to race at Homestead. Logano ran well in the May race at Dover. He qualified 4th, won Stage 1, led 16 laps and finished 7th. He finished 3rd in this race last year so he has a chance to run up front Sunday.

Ryan Blaney: Blaney needs a good race Sunday. He is 10th in the playoff standings and only the top 8 advance. The No. 12 team has been better on the short tracks using the 750 HP aero package than they have been on the larger tracks this season. He qualified 11th, scored Stage points and both Stages and finished 15th in the May race at Dover.

Paul Menard: Menard is “just a guy” at Dover. His average starting position is 19th and his average finishing position is 19th. That is nothing to get excited about. Menard qualified 18th and finished 17th in the May race at the Monster Mile. His average finishing position on the steep tracks this season is 13.8 so maybe he will be able to find some of the speed he had a Bristol and use it this week, but I would not count on it.

Kyle Busch: What happened to the No. 18 team? They have not been to Victory Lane the last 16 races (Pocono race in June). Good thing Busch had the most points entering the playoffs because he fiished 19th, 2nd and 37th in the 3 races in the first round. I expect the team to step up their game in round 2. Busch won at Dover in 2017 but he was only mediocre in the last race at the Monster Mile. Busch qualified 22nd, scored 2 Stage points, led 1 lap and finished 10th.

Erik Jones: Jones is in a slump right now but most of it is not his fault. Jones finished 39th, 36th, 38th and 40th in his last 4 races. That includes 2 crashes and a DQ. Jones should be able to get back on track this week. Jones finished 4th in this race last year and 6th in the May race at Dover.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been much better on the short, flat tracks than he has been on the short, steep tracks in his career. Dover ranks as the 19th best track for Hamlin. He has never won at the Monster Mile and he only finished 21st in the May race at the track. Hamlin sits 3rd in the playoff standings so the No. 11 team will probably try to escape Dover with a top 10 finish and move onto Talladega and Kansas where he runs pretty well.

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has a lot of momentum entering round 2 of the playoffs. He won at Las Vegas and Richmond and he finished 7th at the Roval. Truex also won the last race at Dover and he has finished 6 of the last 7 races at Dover in the top 4. That is pretty consistent production from the No. 19 team. Truex will have a good chance to get back to Victory Lane Sunday.

Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto did not have a great race in May at Dover. He qualified 17th, did not score any Stage points and he finished 20th. The good news is that the No. 95 team has shown a lot of improvement since that race. DiBenedetto finished 2nd at Bristol and 8th at Darlington this summer so he should have a good chance to run a lot better this week than he did in his first race at the Monster Mile.

Daniel Hemric: Hemric has not been very good in his last 10 races. His average starting position is 19.1 and his average finishing position is 26.3. Hemric qualified 23rd and finished 25th in his first race at Dover. It will be a good race for Hemric if he can finish in the top 20 this week.

Austin Dillon: Dillon has not been very good at Dover in his career. His average starting position is 17.2 and his average finishing position is 20.7. He qualified 16th and finished 19th in the May race at the Monster Mile. He did finish 7th in this race last year so there is a chance he could run well Sunday. Just do not get to excited about the No. 3 car.

Ty Dillon: Ty Dillon has been better using the 750 HP aero package than he has been on the larger tracks this season. Dillon has not been very good at Dover though. He has a 27.5 average starting position and a 22.8 average finishing position at the Monster Mile. Dillon could be an interesting play in DFS if he qualifies outside the top 25.

Chris Buescher: Buescher has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season but the short, steep tracks have not been his best. He qualified 30th and finished 23rd in the May race at Dover. He did finish 17th at Bristol and 12th at Darlington this summer so if he qualifies outside the top 20, he must be in all DFS lineups.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: It is amazing how a driver could be so good at Bristol and so bad at Dover. The two tracks are high-banked concrete ovals. Darlington ranks as the 19th best track for Stenhouse. He qualified 20th and finished 30th in the May race at the Monster Mile. Stenhouse is still trying to show he belongs in the MENCS so I do not expect him to give up on the season yet.

Ryan Newman: Newman was the story entering the playoffs and he continues to run well in the first round. Unfortunately for him, he did not build up enough points to advance to round 2. Newman has only been “OK” at Dover in the recent races. In May he qualified 21st and finished 18th. Last year, he finished 17th in this race. Newman usually finishes between 15th – 20th at the Monster Mile.

 

Favorites to win Sunday: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson

 

Good Sleeper Picks: Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto and Daniel Suarez

 

 

MENCS Final Practice Speeds

 

MENCS Final Practice 10-Lap Avg.Speeds

 

MENCS Final Practice 15-Lap Avg. Speeds

 

Click Here for Friday 1st Practice Speeds

 

 

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